Editor's Note

Daniela Speziale’s shared connections with poet Camillo Sbarbaro remind me of Robert Hass’ opening lines to Meditation at Lagunitas—“All the new thinking is about loss./In this it resembles all the old thinking.” These fresh translations speak of the recondite, archaic themes of poetry that interweave our lives across ages in a web that comforts as it contains. The translations also valorize a poet that has been all but forgotten, both locally and internationally.

— Mandakini Pachauri
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Translator's Note

Considered by critics one of the masterpieces of early-1900s Italian poetry, Sbarbaro’s fame was eventually eclipsed by that of Italy’s major modernist authors, to a point where his work is today hardly remembered. Born in 1888 in Liguria, Camillo Sbarbaro dedicated his life to poetry, translation, and teaching. His writings show the influence of Leopardi’s ante-litteram  existentialism, as well as Baudelaire’s “spleen” and alienation from reality; in turn, they had a profound mark on other Italian modernists, such as Nobel Prize winner Eugenio Montale. A major theme in Pianissimo, moreover, is Sbarbaro’s love for his sister and his aging father, to whom multiple poems are dedicated. These four poems were sourced from the 2001 edition of “Pianissimo”, the main poetry collection of Italian writer Camillo Sbarbaro, first published in 1914.

Translating Sbarbaro meant for me rediscovering my hometown Savona in Liguria (where he also lived), through new writerly eyes. I opted for a mostly literal translation, closely following not just the meanings but also the syntax and structure (including enjambments) of the original.

— Daniele Speziale

Not because You Are, Life


Not because you are, Life, a swift blaze

in the night, and neither for these

elements of Earth and sky in which

my horrible sadness finds repose:

rather, Life, for all your roses

which are either yet to bloom or already

withering away, for your Desire

which like the fable’s child leaves us

but with a handful of dead flies,

for the hatred we all carry for our own

self of yesterday, for the indifference

of everything to our divinest dreams,

for the inability to live but in the moment

like a sheep grazing through the world

now on this, now on that tuft of grass

without a care for anything else,

for the regret lying deep in every life

of having squandered it uselessly

like dirt on the bottom of a glass,

for the grand happiness of crying

and the eternal sadness of Love,

for the unknown and the infinite darkness,

for all this bitterness I love you, Life.



Maybe Someday, Sister


Maybe someday, sister, we’ll be able

to retreat to the hills, to a house

where to spend the rest of our life.

Father will be with us, though dead.

Around the house, we’ll see him move.

Then he’ll understand all the pain

that we went through hand in hand,

you a life, sister, without love,

I a life, sister, without deception.

And I shall then work on the other

purpose for which I live: to leave

a sign to the world that I too once was.

And when the delusion doesn’t suffice me

of living many a life through my art,

then your pain shall silence mine.

To feel closer and closer each day

we’ll sometimes remember all that was

and go over the places where as kids

we would walk holding our father’s hand,

for bitterness is our nourishment.

And if existence were to feel empty

and if the regret of a different life

occasionally chokes our throat,

then we’ll go to the only comforter.

For entire days we’ll remain

with our open hands on the grass

almost content to exist just for this.

And we shall thus live in company

of our big brothers, the rivers and woods,

at peace with our destiny.

For this to come true, sister, I vow

that my pain shall last as long as I do,

rather, that it may grow day by day.

Thus is the dream I dream with open eyes.



Joyful and Fearful I See You


Joyful and fearful I see you

fading day by day, my Pain.

Like the waking lover sneaking a look

at the visage of his sleeping beloved

feeling the coldness of the irreparable

gradual estrangement of their bodies,

every morning I wake up and find

your face a bit paler, o Pain,

‘til one day I might see in your place

the dull appearance of Habitude.

You who for a little while deceived

my aridity and with tears muddied

my clear eyes, weakening my sight,

and made me live all life in the moment,

now that I have learnt to love you alone,

o Pain, you too a passerby,

inexorably go your own way.

And if I had a chance to call you back

I might not even dare to do so.

But my true life comes along with you

for I do not live but when I suffer.



Waking Up in the Morning Sometimes


Waking up in the morning sometimes

such an acute repulsion I feel to come

back to life, that in my heart I’d vow

to die in that very instant.

Awakening then seems a rebirth

as the mind cleansed by oblivion

in slumber turned virgin once again

looks curiously over existence.

But experience emerges before her

like land as the tide recedes.

And so clearly becomes manifested

to her the irrationality of life,

that she rejects living and would rather

return to the limbo she came from.

In that moment I’m like those

who wake up on a ravine’s edge

the despairing hands fighting to push

the body backwards to no avail.

Like that abyss it fills me with dread

the desperate morning light.


Image Details:

Lee Teter. Reflections. Oil on canvas. 28″ (H) x 34″ (W).

Camillo Sbarbaro’s lead poem is a declaration of love to one who has been the situs of much pain. The poet has no choice but to confront this truth, lean against it, and as we, the Reader, reach for that gesture, recognising in it our own soul-embittering sorrows, art is made. Lee Teter achieved a painting. Sbarbaro, a poem.


Camillo Sbarbaro (Genoa, 1888- Savona, 1967) was an Italian poet and translator, and an influential figure of early-1900s Italian modernism. He debuted in the world of poetry with Pianissimo, 1914, an anthology which he edited throughout his life and which remains his most influential work. Drawing his inspiration from Leopardi’s existential pessimism and Baudelaire’s sense of “spleen”, Sbarbaro’s poetry in turn influenced that of modernist authors such as Nobel Prize winner Eugenio Montale. A humble and solitary man, Sbarbaro’s success was eventually eclipsed by that of Italy’s major 20th-century poets, his literary heritage being now largely neglected in the country.


Daniele Speziale (1998-) graduated in MSc Development Studies from SOAS University Of London in 2022, and does social work in Kinshasa, D.R. Congo. He nurtures a passion for NGO work, intercultural encounters, and languages— having studied more than a dozen. Particularly fond of Urdu and Hindi, his translations reached finalist positions in the Jawad Memorial Prize and the Stephen Spender Prize. He publishes his Hindustani poetry with Rekhta under the pen-name of “Rahi Italvi”.

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